A Passion for Fashion

By Danielle Emig

For SU’s design students, a final project may be the start to a career

Sketch books replace textbooks. Sewing machines substitute for laptops. Fabric and scissors replace paper and pens. For some students, fashion is more than their interest or major – it’s their life.

With less than two months to go until fashion weekend, the senior fashion design students at Syracuse University are working around the clock to finish their six-piece collections. For the seniors, the show means more than a final grade. If a student’s work is truly impressive, he or she has the chance to show his or her collection at a juried New York City fashion show. It will include seamstresses that will alter the student’s designs to fit models before hitting the runway.

These collections will be selected by a panel consisting of SU faculty and local buyers. The panel analyzes a collections’ craftsmanship, design, fabric use and fashion relevancy.

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“Our program is a little more known in the industry,” said Avery Carter, a senior fashion design student. “It’s a good step and definitely something to strive for.”

To help students prepare for the show on April 22 and 23, head fashion director of Bloomingdale’s and SU alumna Stephanie Solomon came to SU to offer advice and help seniors narrow collections down from 25 to six pieces.

Solomon graduated in 1972. Although she loved fashion at the time, she did not see it as a way to make money. Instead, she pursued teaching and received her degree in education. After graduation when she couldn’t find a teaching job, she was hired as the fashion coordinator at Bloomingdale’s.

During her recent return to SU, Solomon briefly met with seniors, looking at their collections and commenting on their pieces. She also spoke of the process of selling successful trends and how she makes money for Bloomingdale’s to a history of fashion class. In her lecture, she described how she created the theme, “The Beat of Chic,” for the fall 2008 season. The students appreciated any advice Solomon had to offer.

“We don’t get enough critique[s] in the classroom, so it was refreshing to have someone outside of class to help,” said Ashley Haydock, a senior fashion design student.

The students have been working on their collections since the fall. During that time, the seniors drew three different collections based on set inspirations given by the department. This year, collections were inspired by Audrey Hepburn,Théâtre de la Mode, and Diana Vreeland.

After sketching their collections, students chose which one they wanted to execute in the spring semester. Carter chose her Théâtre de la Mode collection, which gives the typical girly look a bit of toughness. Although her collection is underway, Carter is constantly finding inspiration.

“You can find inspirations from anywhere and in everything,” Carter said. “I am always looking at blogs since they are so current.”
Sara Armet chose to create a collection based on Diana Vreeland because it allows her to be more creative. She plans on using little color and lots of shapes and texture. Solomon offered Armet some valuable advice.

“She was looking from a retail point of view and told me what would sell,” said Armet, who hopes to work in retail after graduation to make a name for herself before designing her own line.

For the fashion design students, senior year is far from easy. The constant sketching and sewing causes other classes and social lives get put on the back burner.

“I don’t count my other classes as classes right now,” Armet said. “My full concentration is on my collection.”

Unfortunately, this hectic lifestyle won’t end after the fashion show in April. Solomon informed students that working in the fashion industry means working nonstop. She spends four consecutive weeks traveling to various fashion shows.

“It’s a hellish and wonderful schedule if you love what you do,” Solomon said.

In addition to spending a lot of time on their collections, fashion design students spend a lot of money. According to Jeff Mayer, a fashion design associate professor, fabric alone can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. Since Syracuse has few fabric stores, students have to travel outside the city to find the perfect material. This usually means traveling to New York City several times throughout the year. SU provides one trip to the city but students have to pay for additional trips.

“Some students went every Friday morning to buy fabric and return at night so they wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel,” said Mayer.

Many students will settle for fabric similar to what they had in mind, but Emily Samit won’t settle until she finds an exact match. She thinks that the quality of the material will always be important, regardless of inexpensive stores like Forever 21. And of course, the better the quality, the higher the price.

While there are a few scholarships, most students look to parents for financial support.
“I’ve been saving a while and my parents want to invest in my future; I’m fortunate in that sense,” Carter said.

Although students must sacrifice money and time, it is worth it in the end. The senior fashion show gives students something their classes can’t – experience. According to Solomon, creating a collection may be more valuable than attending classes.

“Any education is going to be a plus, but not all education is in the classroom,” Solomon said.
As long as the stress and sleep deprivation does not send these students to an early grave, they will definitely have an advantage when they graduate from SU.

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